Great Tosson tower house


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1008096.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 04-Mar-2021 at 16:58:11.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Whitton and Tosson
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NU 02929 00518

Reasons for Designation

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one of these buildings. Solitary tower houses comprise a single square or rectangular `keep' several storeys high, with strong barrel-vaults tying together massive outer walls. Many towers had stone slab roofs, often with a parapet walk. Access could be gained through a ground floor entrance or at first floor level where a doorway would lead directly to a first floor hall. Solitary towers were normally accompanied by a small outer enclosure defined by a timber or stone wall and called a barmkin. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier and aristocratic members of society. As such, they were important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which less than half are of the free- standing or solitary tower type. All surviving solitary towers retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Great Tosson tower house survives reasonably well despite the evident stone robbing. It exhibits no evidence for a surrounding barmkin (outer enclosure).


The monument includes the remains of the medieval tower house of Tosson situated in a grassy enclosure on the south side of Great Tosson hamlet. It commands extensive views to the north across the Coquet valley. The tower is rectangular in shape and measures 8.5m east-west by 6.5m north-south within stone walls 2m thick and survives to first floor level, a height of 7m. Few of the facing stones have survived, with the exception of an area at first floor level on the north elevation, which shows them to be large square blocks laid in a regular fashion. The basement is entered through the remains of an original entrance at the south-eastern corner of the tower and is lit by two narrow windows in the east and west walls. A fireplace survives on the north wall. The basement vaulted roof does not survive but traces of it can be detected around the walls. At first floor level there are the remains of an internal passage and a well preserved garderobe in the north-eastern corner, as well as a window opening in the west wall and a fireplace recess in the north wall. The tower house is also a Grade II* listed building. There is no visible evidence of attached buildings and therefore it is identified as a free-standing building. Tosson tower is first mentioned in a document of 1517 in which it was given by William Ogle to Lord Ogle in exchange for Cocklaw Tower but it is not mentioned in a survey of 1415; it therefore would appear that the tower was constructed in the late 15th century.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Dixon, D D, Upper Coquetdale, (1903)
Ryder, P F, Bastles and Towers in Northumberland National Park, (1990)
Tomlinson, W W, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland, (1888)
Pagination 49, DOE, District of Alnwick Northumberland, (1987)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].